Teacher unable to return to work due to Skytrans collapse
A TEACHER employed in a remote indigenous town has no way of getting back to her students following the closure of Queensland airline Skytrans.
Former Dicky Beach resident Alex Dunn is worried her students will return to an unstaffed school unless another airline comes to their rescue.
Ms Dunn, who is on the Sunshine Coast visiting friends and family for the school holidays, said the majority of staff at Pormpuraaw State School, west of the Cape York Peninsula, relied on the family-owned airline to fly them in from Cairns.
"It was a bit of a shock to find out through friends that (Skytrans) had finished up their last flight on Friday," Ms Dunn said.
"My partner and I have paid for flights to return home in two weeks and we have had no notification from them or anything.
"We have heard through word of mouth that Rex (Regional Express) Airlines might be taking over the flights, but nothing has been confirmed. We have no idea how we are getting home."
Skytrans managing director Simon Wild said in a statement the government's decision to give a large contract to New South Wales-based Regional Express, along with the "nose dive" of the Australian dollar, meant the airline could not continue after 25 years.
The company flew Coast residents three to four times a week to mining sites.
In 2012, the Daily reported Skytrans had signed a long-term contract with mining giant Rio Tinto Coal for four flights a week from the Sunshine Coast Airport to Clermont, Central Queensland.
The agreement marked the Coast's first fly-in, fly-out charter operation.
Dion Corbett flew with Skytrans from Cairns to Normanton every 10 days for work and is now facing the possibility of a 10-hour drive to return when his next roster begins.
"Skytrans closing will affect a lot of workers I know of, but especially myself as they were the only way to get to work," Mr Corbett said.
Some workers will not be impacted, with other airlines already servicing routes frequented by Skytrans.
Mr Wild has apologised for any inconvenience.
"We do believe other airlines may be interested in expanding their operations throughout the Cape and we would hope that they would be able to bring forward their plans to meet this immediate need," he said.
"We have spoken with both the State Government and other airlines to discuss the potential for them to provide aircraft for stranded passengers. We will notify any positive outcome via the Skytrans website."
Passengers affected can visit http://www.skytrans.com.au for a Passenger Information package.
UPDATE: Air services to Cape York communities will continue today following the end of SkyTrans operations on Friday.
Transport Minister Scott Emerson said services would resume into the Cape York townships of Aurukun, Bamaga, Coen, Edward River (Pormpuraaw), Kowanyama and Lockhart River tomorrow.
"The Queensland Government has come to an agreement with WestWing Aviation to ensure air services operate in these communities," Mr Emerson said.
"This is a short-term arrangement while my department speaks to private operators about their plans for this region.
"I'm encouraged by the response from operators who believe there is a viable market to operate services across the Cape.
"Regional Express has indicated it will seek approvals to operate in these markets by late January."
Member for Cook David Kempton said a number of affected local councils were keen to see services continue for their communities.
"I'd like to thank passengers and councils for their patience," Mr Kempton said.
"While this is a quiet time of year for travel in and out of the region, my priority has been to ensure these communities remain connected, particularly ahead of the monsoon season."
A review of government-supported air services led to three routes being deregulated and seven put out to tender.
The tenders were assessed independently, on the basis of service quality and value for Queensland taxpayers.
The same tender process occurred in 2009, when SkyTrans was awarded several contracts.